Zombie Hunting Permits

The city of Clarendon Hills, Illinois, has begun issuing zombie hunting permits.  A permit system is typically used to limit the amount of something.  Which raises an intriguing question:  why does Clarendon Hills want to reduce the amount of zombie hunting?  Apparently, there must be too few zombies!

This is not as absurd as it sounds.  As Michael O’Hara argues in Chapter 16 of Economics of the Undead, “Zombies as an Invasive Species,” one potential solution to a zombie infestation is to encourage people to hunt zombies for sport.  Initially, while the zombies are numerous and out of control, you wouldn’t want to limit this activity.  But if zombie hunting became popular enough, then the zombies could be hunted into extinction — which would mean the death of a popular and enjoyable pastime.  To prevent the overhunting of the zombie population, you would need to establish private zombie-hunting preserves (as O’Hara suggests) or government-issued zombie-hunting licenses (as in Clarendon Hills).

Another possibility is that the Clarendon Hills government may have determined that zombie-hunting produces positive externalities (benefits to people besides the hunters), but also negative externalities (costs to people besides the hunters) — possibly in the form of accidental killings of uninfected people.  If the bad externalities exceed the good ones, then you might want to place limits on zombie-hunting.  But this seems unlikely in the face of a serious invasion.

In any case, this is a good time to quote one of my favorite lines from Economics of the Undead.  O’Hara says in the conclusion to his chapter, “Of course, once we accept the idea that zombies can be an economically valuable species, we cannot avoid the question of whether certain members of society might be more valuable as zombies than as living humans.”

2 responses to “Zombie Hunting Permits

  • enrique

    Glen, you never cease to amaze me! I like this post in particular, because it implies that there is an optimal level of zombies! The non-economist in me would put the optimal number at zero, but this may not be case for the reasons you give in your blog post …

  • enrique

    Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:
    What is the optimal number of zombies? Our friend Glen Whitman makes the case why this number might be greater than zero.

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